Diary of a fallen idol

Not so long ago Phumlani ‘BMX’ Mkhize was a celebrated soccer star; today he ekes out the bare bones of a living begging in the streets. He tells Bareng-Batho Kortjaas that his tragic fall is a lesson for all.

17 January 2021 - 00:00

He grovels, with his right hand raised and waving just above his head as the car approaches... and as soon as it comes to a halt, he greets politely (as always) before asking for money to buy food. "Ngicela amasentshana bafo ngilambile ngifuna ukuthola okuy'ethunjini. (Can I please have some loose change, my brother, I'm hungry, I need to buy food)." Begging on the streets has become synonymous with Phumlani "BMX" Mkhize, the former Bafana Bafana, Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and African Wanderers striker. Just over a decade ago he was the pride of Wembezi, a poverty-stricken township outside Estcourt in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands. This is where he grew up before setting the South African top soccer league alight with his goal-scoring prowess.

Now, the father of seven is the butt of derision from some who worshipped him when he was scoring goals for their favourite teams. "Every day they laugh at me, and that kills me inside," he says. Even on social media the ridicule is relentless. What was meant to be a positive story about his attempt at coaching was met with contempt, some making comments like: "Ay, suka, that's lies ... The guy is asking for R2 in the streets of Wembezi. I once gave him a lift to Estcourt. Akanayo even a simple Golf 1. I hope players don't follow your example by shooting themselves in the foot (in more ways than one) *kwakwakwakwakwa*."..

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